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These blog posts are by Paula Tanner, former solicitor and founder of Ethos Family Solutions - the affordable alternative to a solicitor.

 

We'd love to read any comments you'd like to add to any, or all, of the blogs.

 

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Christmas can be a tricky time when you’re a separated parent.  Even if you’ve been separated for a while, it might be a difficult time for you if you haven’t put in place arrangements that work with your separated family dynamic.  This blog sets out our top tips to help make the festive season go more smoothly for you …

 

Time the children will spend with you both

Consider early on what arrangements might work for you all. 

 

Could you and your ex share Christmas Day, with the children waking up with one of you and then going to the other parent perhaps in the afternoon? 

 

Could one parent have the children overnight on Christmas Eve until Christmas morning or lunchtime, and then the other have them Christmas afternoon overnight until Boxing Day? 

 

Could both parents be in the same house with the children on Christmas morning and perhaps even have Christmas dinner together?  This won’t work for everyone, but it might just be possible for you so it’s definitely something to consider. 

 

Or maybe the children could have two ‘Christmas Days’ – one on 25th as usual, but another perhaps on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day so they get double the excitement. 

 

Consider other family members too.  You might not be at all concerned about whether your ex’s parents can see your children over Christmas, but the chances are that the children will want to see their Grandparents.  You might not be bothered about whether your children can wake up on Christmas morning with your ex’s new baby, but the children might be really excited to be there for their new brother or sister’s first Christmas, or just to be together to share the fun of opening their presents, even if it’s not anyone’s first Christmas.  Can you work around those relationships so that your children get to see everyone they want to see?

 

Above all, think about the arrangements sooner rather than later and don’t make the children feel awkward.  Keep any disagreements away from the children (remember, they see and hear more than you think) and let the children know as soon as possible what the arrangements will be, so that they can feel reassured that they will be spending time with both of you over Christmas. 

 

Christmas concerts and other events

Your children might have nativity plays, Christmas concerts, carol services and maybe other events to attend.  Try to plan ahead for these so that the children know where they stand and aren’t worried about what might or might not happen. 

 

If there will be two performances of a concert, it might be sensible for one of you to go to each – not just to reduce the opportunity for arguments and awkwardness, but because the children will probably want one of you there whenever they perform. 

 

If there is only one performance, you’ll probably both want to go so remember to make sure that the children don’t pick up on any negativity.  Try to be civil with your ex – and if the children see you actually being friendly towards each other, so much the better.

 

Christmas Presents

Consider what gifts the children have said they want and try to communicate with your ex (in person, or by text/email etc if necessary) to agree who will buy what.  This will help you avoid duplication and also help towards ensuring that the children get as many of the presents they want as possible.

 

Remember that gift-giving at Christmas shouldn’t be a competition.  Try to resist the urge to compete with your ex to buy the children more expensive presents, or bigger presents, or the most presents.  It helps if you can agree who is buying what in advance, as mentioned above.

 

On the subject of gifts, try to resist the urge to tell the children that they can’t take the new, expensive gift you bought to their mum’s or to their dad’s.  Remember, it’s their present and they’ll probably want to take it with them – so try not to make things more difficult for the children by refusing to let them.

 

The children might also want to buy a present for their other parent and might need your help to do so.  This will probably go against your instinct – you won’t want to buy your ex anything!  But don’t think of it as a gift for your ex, it’s a gift for your children really.  They’ll get the pleasure of being able to give a gift to their other parent and you’ll be setting the tone for their Christmas – one of cooperation rather than animosity.

 

And finally …

Christmas can be a tricky time for separated parents and will probably require you to come up with new family traditions.  But new can be good, and these tips should help you come up with new traditions that could work for you and your family.

 

And above all - enjoy your Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paula Tanner,

Former Solicitor & Founder of Ethos Family Solutions - the affordable alternative to a solicitor.

 

 

If you’d like to discuss Christmas contact arrangements, or any other family law matter,

get in touch.

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

 

What does a McKenzie Friend do?

Posted on 4th September, 2018

What on earth is a McKenzie Friend, you ask?  Well that’s a very good question as it’s certainly not self-explanatory - and in fact, that's something we're very often asked.

 

First the legal bit - the term ‘McKenzie Friend’ comes from an English divorce case (McKenzie v McKenzie [1971]) in which the husband wanted to use an Australian barrister to assist him in the proceedings.  The barrister’s Australian qualification didn't allow him to ‘represent’ Mr McKenzie in English proceedings, but the barrister planned to sit with Mr McKenzie, take notes and quietly give him advice during the proceedings. The judge said he could only sit in the public gallery and speak to Mr McKenzie during breaks in the proceedings, which the barrister felt was pointless, so he didn’t attend the second day of the hearing. The result of the hearing went against Mr McKenzie who then appealed on the basis that he had been denied the assistance of his barrister-friend.  The Court of Appeal ruled that the judge’s refusal had deprived Mr McKenzie of the assistance he was entitled to and so a re-trial was ordered.  And the term ‘McKenzie Friend’ stems from there.

 

So that’s the background.  But what does a McKenzie Friend actually do?

 

Well, a McKenzie Friend doesn’t have to be legally qualified, although Ethos Family Solutions’ Paula Tanner is a former family law solicitor (now non-practising) and so she has a extensive experience in all the legal aspects of family law.  Paula also takes a non-confrontational approach (don’t confuse this with non-assertive though!) and she is an Associate Member of Resolution – a national organisation of family lawyers who take a constructive approach to family law matters.

 

 

A McKenzie Friend can assist you to deal with your divorce, separation or any aspect of the breakdown of your relationship.  If you are dealing with arrangements for your children, trying to negotiate a financial settlement with your ex, or if you have to go to court, a McKenzie Friend can help you. If you are a grandparent trying to see your grandchildren, we can assist.

 

We are not mediators, counsellors or therapists (although we are very experienced in dealing with people going through difficult and emotional times).

 

You don’t need to use a solicitor as well as a McKenzie Friend – although you can if you choose, and we are perfectly happy to work with your solicitor, for example preparing statements for you to keep the costs down. 

 

A McKenzie Friend can give you suggestions and advice about the best way forward for you in your circumstances.  Of course, the McKenzie Friend isn’t representing you, so he or she can’t tell you what to do and it is up to you in the long run if you take their advice.  But sometimes, having someone to point you in the right direction (and to come up with suggestions that have so far eluded you - understandably, as it’s such a personal situation for you) is so important when you’re dealing with such an emotional matter as a relationship breakdown.

 

Paula believes that court is very much a last resort when dealing with family matters, but ultimately that is where your case might end up.  If it does, Paula, as a McKenzie Friend, can assist you in planning for the hearing, preparing court bundles, preparing statements as and when required, working out what options you have, what proposals you might make, what rules you should be following etc, etc.  Paula can also attend court with you and take notes as well as quietly giving you advice as and when issues come up at the hearing.  And she’ll also give you a nudge and bring you back on track if you’re starting to say something that won’t help your case!

 

If you’re dealing with a divorce or have reached a financial agreement, Paula can help you by preparing the paperwork to get your divorce or to get the financial agreement drawn up into a consent order so that you are protected in the future.

 

Sometimes people come to see Paula before they’ve even separated to prepare themselves for what the future might hold.  This assists people in knowing what they’re dealing with, understanding what the options are and weighing up the implications of a separation. Knowing what the future might hold then gives people the confidence to make whatever decision they need to in relation to their family.

 

Paula has worked in the family law field for more than 15 years, working in practise in Swansea and then for a legal publisher based in Bristol/London, working on the legal publications used by solicitors and judges alike.  Whilst working for the publisher, Paula realised that a lot of reported cases now involved people representing themselves (known as ‘litigants in person’) and she realised how difficult it would be for the everyday person to navigate their way through the family law system if they couldn’t afford a solicitor to guide them – which more and more people no longer could due to the removal of legal aid in most family law cases.  So, she decided that she could help those people by setting up a McKenzie Friend business – and Ethos Family Solutions was born.

 

Ethos Family Solutions is based in South Wales, with offices in Swansea and Porthcawl, but we assist clients all over England and Wales and beyond – as long as your legal issue is in the jurisdiction of England and Wales, we can help.

 

We describe ourselves as ‘the affordable alternative to a solicitor’ – because that’s what we are.  We can help you with the legalities of applications, procedures, form-filling, statement preparation, working out what path to take etc, etc.  What we can’t do is ‘represent you’ and (usually) speak in court on your behalf.  However, if your case gets to the stage where you feel that you need someone to speak for you, we can help you find a suitable barrister who will have a fixed fee for the hearing.

 

The advantages of using Ethos Family Solutions as your McKenzie Friend include having the benefit of legal experience at an affordable price, as well as the empowerment of managing your own case and taking control of the destiny of your family, whilst having the support and guidance of a specialist.  We'd say that's definitely worth considering if you're experiencing, or are about to go through, a relationship breakdown. 

 

Do you need help with an issue arising from a divorce or separation?

Contact us

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

 

 

There's so much to think about when you separate.  Even when you're just thinking about separating, how do you know what to expect and what you should do to prepare?

 

Well this blog sets out our top 10 tips to enable you to fully manage your divorce and finance, from the initial stages of your separation or even before.  This is Part 2 of our series of tips about how to manage your separation.  Ou previous blog post dealt with tips to help you you and your children manage your separation as easily as possible.

 

Finances             

 1. If you have bank accounts or credit cards in joint names, think about either closing those down or putting protective measures in place. When   the account is in joint names, either of you can access that account, withdrawing any balance but also potentially running up an overdraft or credit card debt for which the other person would be ‘jointly and severally’ liable.  This means that you are both responsible for paying it back but one of you could be held wholly responsible for paying back the whole amount.  And that person doesn’t have to be the person who ran up the debt – the bank or credit card company might hold you responsible for paying back the full amount incurred by your ex. To protect yourself, speak to your bank and/or credit card company and let them know that you’ve separated and want to protect your position.  They are likely to have their own procedures in such circumstances but, as a guideline, they might put in place a requirement that you both have to sign for any withdrawal that is out of the ordinary. Of course, ideally the account should be closed but that might not be possible in your particular circumstances – and make sure you don’t close an account from which the household outgoings or anything else is paid without discussing it properly with your ex.

 

2. Start keeping your financial documentation, and make sure you know where it is. If you need to issue a financial application in any divorce proceedings, or if you discuss finances at mediation, you will be expected to provide ‘full and frank disclosure’ of your financial position.  This includes such things as 12 months’ bank and credit card statements, P60s and 3 months’ payslips or business accounts for the last 3 years if you’re self-employed.  You’ll also be expected to provide a valuation of your pension which can take some time to obtain, so if you’re thinking of issuing a financial application, request your pension valuation asap from your pension provider or HR department.

 

3. Consider making a new will. If you already had a will, it’s likely that your ex was named as a beneficiary.  If you didn’t have a will but you were married, your ex will be your next of kin so would inherit your full estate (subject to certain limitations) if anything happened to you.  So making a new will is important post-separation.  Similarly, if you own a property together, you may well own it as joint tenants, which means that if anything happened to either of you, the other would inherit the whole property, whatever was in any will.  If you want to avoid that, you should sever the joint tenancy at the same time as making your new will.

                                                                                                               

Divorce

 4. Consider talking things through with a professional. Whether you’re ready to go ahead with a divorce or not, a professional can point you in the right direction and might raise issues you hadn’t thought about.  Seeing a professional early-on can help you get a game-plan in place so that you know where you stand and what you will or won’t need to do in the future. It can also give you peace of mind and reassurance at a very difficult time – a professional won’t be emotional about the situation and will be able to assist you calmly and rationally, to do the best for you and your family.  They can also tell you the facts as they apply to your own circumstances, which is preferable to relying on information found online or given to you by well-meaning friends following their own divorces.

 

5. You don’t have to do anything until you’re ready. There’s no need to take any formal steps regarding your marriage (as long as you consider the protective measures mentioned above).  Don’t feel that you have to issue divorce proceedings simply because you’ve decided that there’s no future in the marriage.  You might want to get on with things, but equally you might need a bit of time before you do anything more formal – and that’s totally fine.

 

Do you need help with an issue arising from a divorce or separation?

Contact us

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

                                         

It’s a bit of a minefield when you separate, isn’t it?  How do you know what you’re supposed to be doing and when?  Are you missing something important that will go against you in the future?  How do your explain it all to your children and make sure you're doing your best for them?

 

Well this blog sets out our top tips to help you and your children manage your separation and divorce as easily as possible, and these tips apply whether you were married or not.

 

1. At some point you’re going to have to have that discussion with the children, explaining to them how things are going to be from now on. If at all possible, it’s usually best if both of you can have that discussion with the children together.  That will help the children feel as secure as possible about the future, reassuring them that you’ll both continue to be there for them, even if you aren’t living together anymore.  It’s also important to try your hardest not to blame each other for the separation.  This doesn’t just apply during that first conversation with the children – try not to blame each other or talk down about each other in front of the children at all.  Bear in mind that the children are part of you both and by talking down about one of their parents, they may be left feeling bad about themselves.  And children hear more than you think – you may not think they’re in earshot but there’s a good chance they’ll either hear or pick up on things that are being said about their other parent.

 

2. Consider early-on what arrangements should be put in place for the children. It’s important for the children to know that they’re going to be seeing both parents and to know that plans are in place, even if those plans are only temporary while longer term plans are sorted out between you.  And remember that the arrangements should be in the children’s best interests – don’t demand the children’s time simply because you want what you think is fair to you.  Think about whether it’s fair to the children.

 

3. Work out what child support (sometimes called child maintenance) should be paid and by who. If one of you is no longer living with the children or doesn’t have them for more than a night or so a week, it is likely that parent should be paying child support.  And bear in mind that the child support payable isn’t just to pay for treats for the children, it goes towards their share of the household expenses too.  Child support is handled by the Child Maintenance Service if parents can’t sort it out between themselves – although parents are encouraged to try to sort it out between them.  It is sometimes useful to check out what would be payable, as part of discussions between you – there is an online calculator at https://www.cmoptions.org/en/calculator/index.asp.  But bear in mind that the calculator will give the minimum expected payment – there is nothing to stop you reaching an agreement for more to be paid if it’s affordable and appropriate for you.

 

4. Plan ahead for Christmas (as well as any other upcoming special occasions such as birthdays and Easter). A lot of people leave it until December-time to start thinking about arrangements for the children over Christmas, but that can be too late if you can’t agree.  If your ex insists on the children staying with him or her for the whole of the Christmas period, you might want to issue a court application to get that resolved - but if you’ve left it until December, you may have left it too late to get it into court.  So start thinking about arrangements for these special occasions sooner rather than later.

 

5. If you can’t agree, get a referral to mediation asap (unless there’s been domestic abuse). It can be difficult to talk to your ex, particularly in the immediate aftermath of separation, but issues relating to the children need to be sorted out as soon as possible.  A referral to mediation shouldn’t be seen as an aggressive step – it’s often the best means to work things through in the best interests of the family.  A trained mediator will help you reach an agreement that suits you all and will keep you both from going off on a tangent about who did what last year, or who said what to who 5 years ago.  The mediator will keep you to the subject at hand and help you reach an agreement, on neutral territory.  And mediation is a requirement, in most cases, before a court application can be issued anyway. 

 

Do you need help with an issue arising from a divorce or separation?

Contact us

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

If you’ve checked out this series of blogs previously, you’ll know that 

Ethos Family Solutions has helped many people dealing with all manner of issues arising from their divorce or separation, including arrangements for children and finances.

 

Here’s the story of another happy client, Mrs D.

 

Mrs D’s story …

 

 Mrs D had been married to Mr D for a number of years. They had three  

 children together, before they separated in acrimonious circumstances

 which involved Mrs D having to phone the police and then taking out a

 non-molestation order (often simply called an ‘injunction’) to prevent Mr D  

 from contacting her again.

 

 

Paula assisted Mrs D with her divorce, preparing the paperwork at every stage and advising on the appropriate next steps. Mr D, however, did not cooperate at all and refused to sign the Acknowledgment form, which was the only thing he needed to sign to enable the divorce to progress. Mr D believed that refusing to sign the form enabled him to retain control over Mrs D, thinking that he would be able to prevent her from getting the divorce she wanted to enable her to move on with her life.

 

However, Paula was able to prepare an application to the court for Mrs D to ask the court for an order of “deemed service”. This meant that the court was asked to accept that Mr D had received the divorce petition and to proceed without his signature or his consent.  The court granted this application and the divorce proceeded with no further involvement by Mr D.

 

Mrs D didn’t need to attend court as it was all dealt with on paper and the divorce was finalised a few months after it was first issued. Mrs D was relieved to finally get the closure she needed.

 

In recommending our services, Mrs D said -

 

“Amazing help & advice without the expensive solicitor price tag. Would 100% recommend, THANK YOU!”

 

We know how difficult it can be for someone representing themselves to know what to do when they hit a problem with the process, and that can mean that the process stalls altogether and the people involved can’t move on with their lives. We can help you deal with any issues which arise in your divorce or separation, whether expected or unexpected.

 

Do you need help with an issue arising from a divorce or separation?

Contact us

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

Here at Ethos Family Solutions, we’ve helped many people in all manner of different situations, from divorcing couples who need assistance to sort out arrangements for their children or finances through to grandparents who want to resume their relationship with their much-loved grandchildren.

 

Here's the story of one such client who we were happy to help recently.

 

Mr J's story …

 

Mr J’s ex-wife had issued a financial application following their divorce. She was using a solicitor, but Mr J didn’t have that option and didn’t know where to turn. He had been trying to follow the process using the resources he could find online such as YouTube videos.

 

Mr J’s ex-wife had made various allegations against Mr J in an attempt to improve her financial claim, which would ultimately have meant that Mr J would have had to sell the home he lived in - the same home his daughter lived in when she was with him.  There were a number of other issues which Mr J was aware of and which were also relevant, such as access Mrs J had to additional money, and the fact that she was in a new and stable relationship - but Mrs J hadn’t informed her solicitor or the court of these issues and Mr J didn't know what to do about it.

 

Mr J heard about Ethos Family Solutions through a friend of a friend and felt very relieved at his first appointment with Paula.  They worked through the process and what needed to be done.  They agreed a plan to move things forward and discussed some possible options for a financial settlement.  Mr J remained in control of the process but with Paula’s assistance he felt empowered, knowing that he was dealing with the case properly and would have support every step of the way.

Mr J didn’t have to attend court alone as he now had Paula with him, and she was able to provide guidance to him beforehand and at court to help him work out what settlement was right for him and his daughter.

Happily, they were able to resolve the case at court, which avoided the need for further court hearings. Mr J was very happy with the agreement reached and he was able to keep his house for himself and his daughter – which had been his ultimate goal.

 

Mr J said –

“I would like to thank Ms Tanner for all the professional help she gave me while I was going through my Divorce. I couldn’t afford the extortionate fees of a conventional Solicitor. Yet Ms Tanner provided an alternative more affordable option. Ms Tanner gave me highly professional guidance in how to conduct my own divorce and supported me through the minefield of paper work I had to complete. If you're representing yourself in court because you can’t afford a solicitor, I would highly recommend that you speak to Ms Tanner who can give you additional advice, guidance and support with your family law issues. I would like to thank Ms Tanner for all the help I had to resolve my matter. Thank You Ms Tanner for providing this Service.”

 

 

Do you need help with an issue arising from a divorce or separation?

Contact us

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

 

We hear a lot of false-facts about divorce and separation here at Ethos Family Solutions.  Some of them come from a confusion between the law applicable in England and Wales, and the law applicable elsewhere (such as the USA where a lot of celebrity divorces are reported, but even as close to home as Scotland where different laws apply to divorce and separation).

 

This blog outlines the top five false-facts we hear regularly:

 

1. I’m protected as I’m in a common law marriage

People often believe that living together for three years (the length of time may vary but it often seems to be three years) gives them the same rights as married couples.

 

This isn’t true in Wales or in England.  There is no defined legal protection for people who have lived together but were not married (‘cohabitants’).  Apart from child support for any children of the relationship, and a division of any jointly owned property or joint bank accounts, you are unlikely to be able to make any financial claim against your former partner if you weren’t married.  There is sometimes an option to make a claim against a solely-owned property if you’ve contributed to it, but this is far more complicated than for married couples.

 

You can reduce the financial risk by considering entering into a ‘cohabitation agreement’ during your relationship, to set out what would happen in the event of a separation.

 

2. We’ll be able to get a quickie divorce in just a few minutes / a few weeks

There is no such thing as a ‘quickie’ divorce, despite what the media would have you believe. In England and Wales, divorces usually take a minimum of between four to six months to finalise, as long as everyone involved cooperates in doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done (and that timescale doesn’t include finances and arrangements for children).

 

The decree nisi is the first of the two decrees of divorce and that will be pronounced in minutes by the court (which is probably where the media’s use of ‘quickie’ divorce comes from).  But to get to that stage, there are a number of other stages you will have had to deal with first.

 

And after the decree nisi, there is a mandatory waiting period of 6 weeks before you can apply for the decree absolute, which is when you are finally divorced.  Note that the court won’t process the decree absolute until you apply for it either, so it can take longer again if you don’t apply as soon as you are able to.

 

3. It’s not adultery because we’d separated before I started my new relationship

The fact is, if you’re still married, being in a new relationship with someone else is adultery, even if you were already separated.

 

This means that you can still divorce based on adultery and your ex might well issue a petition against you on that basis.

 

In fact, we usually advise people that divorcing based on adultery isn’t as bad as you might think and is often less contentious than divorcing based on unreasonable behaviour, which would require one of you to make allegations against the other and could result in the petition being defended and the whole process being delayed and becoming more costly.

 

Divorcing based on adultery which occurred after separation but whilst you were still legally married is, in our opinion, far less contentious.  The court won’t think badly of you and there will be no repercussions in terms of arrangements for children or any order dealing with finances. 

 

4. We’ll divorce based on irreconcilable differences

There is only one ground for divorce, which is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This must be proved by one of five different reasons – adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent, and five years’ separation.   

 

You’ll notice that irreconcilable differences isn’t on that list.  Irreconcilable differences isn’t an option for divorce in England and Wales, although many people think it is as it’s a ground that is available in the USA and many celebs divorce on that basis. 

 

In Wales and in England, you simply can’t divorce based on irreconcilable differences.  You have to use one of the five reasons above.

 

5. We’ve divided everything up, so everything is finalised

You may have reached an agreement about finances, and you may even have divided everything up and gone your separate ways, but unless you’ve had a written agreement drawn up, which has preferably been approved by the court, there is still the chance that your ex could make a claim against you many years into the future.

 

Until finances are properly resolved and you can show a concluded agreement, your ex could make a claim against you, even if your circumstances have drastically improved compared to what you had during the marriage.

 

The safest option is to get a consent order drawn up to deal with finances.  You can then send it to the court for approval and that will conclude the arrangements and ensure that neither of you can claim against the other in the future. The court will look at it carefully and won’t just ‘rubber-stamp’ it, but provided you both understand what you’re doing and are happy with the arrangements, it will usually be approved.  It’s unlikely you’ll even have to go to court to have it approved, as it can be dealt with in writing.  So it really is the best option to get finality.

 

If you haven’t completed your divorce yet or don’t intend to, you should still consider drawing up a ‘separation agreement’ to set out the financial agreement between you. That will give you evidence of a concluded agreement having been reached if your ex tries to claim against you in the future.

 

 

If you need help with any of the above, or with any other issue arising from a divorce or separation, get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paula Tanner

Former solicitor and founder of Ethos Family Solutions 

 

 

Need some help?

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

 

Post-Separation Survival Guide

Posted on 12th October, 2017

If you've decided to end your relationship, you may be feeling in a bit of a fog about what to do now. 

The end of a relationship can seem overwhelming and it's often difficult to work out where to start.

 

People often contact us saying that they've split from their husband or wife and want a formal separation. But, in reality, there is no necessity to do anything formal regarding ending the relationship until you are totally ready. You don't need a legal separation (there isn't really any such thing anyway, although you can get a separation agreement which we'll discuss below).

 

So, what do you need to do after you separate? Here are some of the things you should be thinking about - whether you were married or not.

 

Joint accounts

Firstly, it's important to know your financial position. If you have any joint bank accounts or credit cards, you should consider contacting the bank or account provider to ensure that your ex can't incur you in any debt without your knowledge. This can include running up an overdraft on a joint bank account or spending on a joint credit card. You'll be considered 'jointly and severally liable' for any such joint debts incurred, which means that you could end up paying back a debt that your ex has run up. To try to minimise the risk of that, you should contact the bank or account provider to discuss what steps you could take. 

 

Debts

If there is already a debt in joint names or in your sole name (even if it was incurred for family purposes or solely for the benefit of your ex), do your best to ensure it gets paid.

 

This can be difficult when you are in process of separating as there may be more costs involved, perhaps in one of you moving out. But failing to pay a debt has implications for your credit rating, as well as incurring further charges for non-payment and possible court proceedings. Work out what you need to pay and when, and if you think there's a risk that something won't get paid, contact the relevant company. Simply ignoring payments and debts always makes matters worse. Although it's tempting to try to put it out of your mind, if you contact them they'll usually be more willing to try to work out an arrangement with you - and they will usually understand if you explain that you are in the process of separating.

 

Children

You should consider who the children will live with, and how and when they will see the other parent and their family. You might not be able to stand the thought of seeing your ex and his or her parents, but it's important to remember that they are still your child's family and your child is still a part of them. It may be difficult to sort out arrangements but it's important to try to make sure things are handled as smoothly as possible for your child - remember that this will be a very difficult time for them too.

 

You also need to make sure that the children are financially supported. This means that the 'non-resident parent' should be making a financial contribution in the form of child maintenance. This can be dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the CSA) if necessary, but it's always better to sort things out between you wherever possible - not least because the Child Maintenance Service will charge if they have to sort things out for you. There is an online calculator (available at https://www.cmoptions.org/en/calculator/index.asp ) that you can use to help you work out what payment should be made in your circumstances - and this is often helpful in avoiding arguments.

 

Benefits

If you're receiving any benefits, including tax credits and child benefit, remember to contact the relevant agencies to notify them that you are no longer living with your ex. This is important whether it was a joint claim or not. If you don't, you run the risk of not receiving enough, or even of having to pay money back in the future.

 

Properties

If you own a house jointly with your ex, it is likely that you held it as 'joint tenants' which means that you both own the whole thing together and can't, for example, leave your share to anyone else in your will. It is therefore worth considering whether you should sever the joint tenancy so that you both own shares which can be left as you choose (subject of course to any eventual financial settlement or court order).

 

Wills

If you've considered the section above about joint tenancies, you might have realised that this would not actually be very helpful if you've made a will leaving everything to your ex.

If you've made a will, it doesn't become invalid simply by you splitting up. You need to take steps to change it or to revoke it. And even if you don't have a will or you've revoked the one you had during the relationship, while you're still married, your ex will be your next of kin and would stand to inherit from your estate (subject to certain financial limits). This applies until the time your divorce is finalised, so it's important to give this some thought.

 

Formalising the separation

As above, there is no particular need to do anything formal regarding your relationship itself unless and until you are ready to do so.

 

However, if you've decided that now is the time to get things resolved, you may wish to consider a divorce if you're married. If so, consider whether you want to do it yourself, use a solicitor, or use a service such as ours which will support and guide you throughout the process, including helping you to reach a financial agreement or an agreement about arrangements for the children.

 

If you aren't married, you might consider formalising matters into a separation agreement which can take into account any agreement about who will pay what, or who will have what from the house etc. It can also take into account longer term matters such as who will pay for the children's driving lessons, or university fees if you want to get everything agreed.

 

If you are married but aren't ready to take any formal steps towards a divorce, you might also want to consider a separation agreement to formalise any agreement as to finances. If done properly, this will provide a good basis for the court to take into account on any eventual divorce proceedings and can be a useful option.

 

Financial agreement

It is a good idea to try to reach a financial agreement with your ex, whether that is through direct discussion, mediation or negotiation with the help of a third party. But it is important that you don't agree to anything final until you have taken some advice. You need to make sure that you know your ex's financial position and understand the position you will be in if you decide to go with the agreement. There may also be other things that you haven't thought about, so even taking one-off advice might help you get some clarity.

 

 

Separation is a difficult time, and there are lots of matters to consider. You don't need to do anything until you are ready but we strongly suggest you consider the above protective measures in the early stages of your separation, to try to protect your position in the long-term.

 

** This article contains general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. You should seek individual advice based on your own circumstances. **

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paula Tanner

Former solicitor and founder of Ethos Family Solutions

 

 

Need some help?

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

 

 

 

When clients contact us for a divorce because their husband or wife has cheated, they often say that they want to name the other person.  Understandable though that is, it's often not the best course of action.

 

In any divorce, it is preferable to keep things as amicable as possible - difficult though that might seem at the time. Your ex might be more willing to agree to a divorce (saving you time, effort and costs) if you are willing to keep the other person's name out of it (and here's a little tip - for the purposes of your divorce petition, the adultery could have taken place after you separated but while you were still married, which is sufficient for the court and might be more palatable to your ex).

 

There aren't any particular 'benefits' to naming the other person in your divorce. You might want them to have to take the blame for the breakdown of your marriage, but the reality is that no one else will see the divorce papers (apart from the court staff and the judge, who

 

won't be shocked by anything - they've seen it all before!).

 

Putting the blame on your ex and the other person won't mean that the court looks any more favourably on you when considering finances or arrangements for your children either. The court doesn't consider who was to blame for the breakdown of the marriage when looking at anything other than checking that you have sufficient grounds to divorce.

 

When you name the other person, they have to be 'served' with the divorce papers, which means that the documents will be sent to them by the court. You might think that's a good thing, but actually it means you get another person involved who could potentially object and delay your divorce. If they decide to contest the divorce, for example by saying there simply was no adultery, the whole divorce case will become much more lengthy and costly, and might have to involve court hearings which might otherwise not have been necessary.

 

Similarly, the other person might simply refuse to sign the papers to enable the divorce to proceed. Whilst this doesn't mean they can stop the process indefinitely, it will require you to take further steps, and most likely incur further costs, to try to progress the divorce. It will also mean that your divorce takes longer than it needed to.

 

Finally, note that you have to have evidence of a sexual relationship between your ex and a person of the opposite sex for it to be classed as adultery (and note that adultery isn't available as a basis for divorce with a same sex marriage or civil partnership). If your ex (and the other person if you name them) won't admit it, it's very difficult to prove that it took place. If you can't prove a sexual relationship has taken place, you can still use the circumstances in an unreasonable behaviour petition (for example, the text messages you saw on your ex's phone) but again, it's important to note that if you name the other person anywhere in any divorce petition, they'll have to become involved in the divorce proceedings.  

 

Overall, there is usually no need to name the other person in a divorce and, in fact, doing so might cause you more stress and heartache in the long run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paula Tanner 

Former solicitor and founder of Ethos Family Solutions

 

Need some help?

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

Don't forget the Grandparents!

Posted on 28th September, 2017

So, you've come to the conclusion that your relationship has broken down.  You start to deal with everything that needs to be dealt with - starting the divorce (if you're married), closing joint accounts etc.

 

Then things get a bit more heated and emotional when you start trying to divide up the assets and work out arrangements for the children - and before you know it, your amicable separation has fallen by the wayside.

 

Your ex's parents were always a big help when you were together, helping-out with looking after the children, picking them up from school, maybe even lending you money towards buying your house or a car.  But now you see them as totally in your ex's camp, unreasonably trying to defend him or her. So you cut them off.  You don't want to see them anymore and you don't want the children to have anything to do with them either.

 

That's an understandable way to feel - as your ex's parents, they will be pre-disposed to seeing the best in him or her, and will naturally want to defend their son or daughter. Some grandparents are better at dealing with that than others - they are only human after all and they are caught up in this separation too, although they have no control over what is happening.

 

Even if you've given it a lot of thought and you still believe that your ex's parents are behaving unreasonably, now is the time to give some thought to how this will affect the children.

 

Children in the middle of a separation are already going through a lot of upheaval, and are likely to be finding it difficult to deal with that emotionally. Grandparents who have always been there, and who the children feel they can rely on, provide a good source of stability for children in what seems like the shifting sands of their home life during separation.

 

Enabling your children to retain their bond and contact with the Grandparents doesn't mean you have to remain on close terms with them yourself, particularly whilst the separation is ongoing, when the situation might be too raw for that. 

 

Of course, your ex's parents may not have been that close to your children or might not have been involved in their lives to any great extent before your separation. Or they might be unable to keep their thoughts on the separation from the children, which causes them as much distress as if their parents were involving them in such adult issues.

 

But if your children have a strong bond with their Grandparents, doing your best to ensure that the bond is preserved could provide a much-needed sanctuary for the children during this time of huge upheaval.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paula Tanner  

Former solicitor and founder of Ethos Family Solutions - the affordable alternative to a solicitor for divorce or separation.

 

 

Need some help?

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk